With a mutual respect for the opposing program, the league itself — not to mention with some plain common sense — Matt Cook and Bob Riker expect things to be different this time around.
The baseball skippers at Warren De La Salle and Birmingham Brother Rice, respectively, are set to take their squads against one another April 27, roughly two weeks to the day after Rice dominated the first doubleheader of the season by a combined 23-6 score.
The second doubleheader is set for 11 a.m. at De La Salle.
“Anytime you sweep somebody, you might relax a little bit, but we have to play and be ready for a much better pair of games,” Rice’s Riker said last week. “We have to know they are going to come after us. We expect a couple of very good games.”
“Immediately after the loss, we talked about having the chance again,” Cook said of his De La Salle team. “That’s the beauty of this league. Two weeks later, we get another shot at them.”
The teams’ first meeting was April 12 at Brother Rice.
De La Salle jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first game, but that’s about where the good times ended.
Unable to throw strikes most of the day, Rice batters walked 22 times in 10 innings played. The Pilots’ 2-0 lead quickly turned to a 5-2 deficit after three walks and a Rice grand slam.
The Warriors never looked back, winning the first game 14-2 by mercy, and the second game 9-4.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job on the mound,” Cook summed up. “We had too many walks, too many balls and dug too many holes in both games. … Rice probably has one of the best lineups in the state, but you can’t give them anything like we did.”
Still, Cook remained confident in the rematch.
“The pitching was bad, but everything else was pretty strong,” he added. “The first time around, I thought we swung the bat well and played good defense. The guys battled. It was just one of those days where we didn’t get a lot to show for it. I think the key for us is getting an early lead this time around. If we can do that, it changes the complexion of the game and how we approach it.”
De La Salle isn’t the first team Riker watched his guys power past.
At press time, Rice was 8-3 overall and 5-1 in the Catholic League Central Division.
12-5 victory against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s April 14 capped a doubleheader sweep for Rice, and also earned the program its 1,000th win.
Still, Riker said he’s not looking past De La Salle for a second, even with the first meeting in mind.
“I mean this, that is a team I don’t want to play when it matters,” he said of the Pilots. “I know they can be better than they were, and they will be. That’s a team that gets off to slow starts, and then brings it as the year goes on. So we know what they are capable of.”
De La Salle was 4-5 overall and 2-5 in the Central at press time.
“We like the chance to prove that we’ve gotten better, and the first meeting wasn’t who we are,” Cook said. “A couple days after that, we bounced back and beat a good Catholic Central team. So we know we have what it takes to compete with Rice.”